On the unassuming corner of NE First Avenue and NW Third Street, surrounded by auto mechanics and flanked by the train tracks, sits a 1-year-old Peruvian restaurant that might just be Hallandale Beach's best-kept secret. The décor does not fall into the kitsch of "ethnic," nor does it strive to be what it isn't. It is a pragmatic setup of family and couples tables with a few park-styled booths that are overseen by a refrigerated counter by the kitchen. It is clean and roomy but retains that sense of coziness that helps elevate mom-and-pop operations above their corporate competitions.
The mom and pop in question are chef/owner Segio Riglos and his delightful wife, Malena. Riglos, a native of Lima, spent many years working in New York City kitchens before heading south and getting serious with his craft at Miramar's Le Cordon Bleu School and working in diverse joints like the Miami Beach Caffe and Juvia. Everyone knows Peruvian cuisine is the it cuisine right now, and rightly so: The diversity of influences, access to some of the world's best fisheries, and the uniqueness of certain ingredients can yield a hedonistic bounty in the right hands.
Such are the hands and vision of Chef Riglos at Ceviche Street.
For many, contemporary Peruvian cuisine relies heavily on the assimilation of Asian flavors and techniques, and the resulting delights of Sino-Incan flavors are the current apex of the field. However, to truly test the mettle of any Peruvian chef is to try their wares at the made por mi tía level; if there is mastery of the familial that lends itself to dispute and strife among takers concerning whose grandma made it best, then the chef is the real deal. Keeping it simple and opening with the yucas fritas a la Huancaína and a tall glass of chicha morada proved that Riglos would not disappoint in this test.
The fries were well-done with the right balance of crisp on the exterior and hot yield in the center. A sizable appetizer that's easily shared it is not bad at $8.95; the only downside to the dish was the Huancaína-sauce-to-fries ratio; a little bit more of the spicy/cheesy goodness would've been fantastic. The chicha wasn't overly sweet, with its tonal cues coming from the cinnamon and cloves, which was good, as this beverage is usually mucked into the territory of cloyingness.
Coming down off the high of a successful National Ceviche Day showing in which Riglos debuted new takes on the raw fish dish alongside his already impressive arsenal of ceviches for a total of 15 he presented, the Ceviche Trio is a good way to experience the fish, Asian and octopus varieties. Peruvian restaurants are always known for their large portions, but many times you'll find that when it comes to ceviche, many skimp on sizing. The trio offers rather large goblets of the stuff, and undercutting is not an issue. The traditional fish ceviche is just right, and the Asian-leaning one works without fully heading into a sushi/sashimi route, thus conserving traditional integrity with Asia as a back-palate reference. The octopus ceviche, with its purple-olive base, rounds out the trio and works as a counterpoint to the others, where the flavors do not blend into each other but live justly on their own.
Until Riglos starts rotating in some of the newer ones he's been experimenting with, like the Spanish- and African-inspired ceviches, the trio is a good starting point with a $16.95 price tag that does not daunt once you see the size. One staple of any Peruvian arsenal is the always-comforting lomo saltado, which can be a real litmus test for a handle on sazón casera. Another sizable portion, the lomo, was cooked perfectly and served at an ideal medium rare, and it was accompanied by white rice and home fries that get the same cooking treatment as the yucas fritas with good exterior crunch and a well-done center.
The rest of the menu does not deviate wildly from Peruvian standards, and Riglos certainly knows his home-cooking. Classics like ají de gallina, Tacu Tacus and pescado a la Chorillana are in the $14 to $17 range as well as an assortment of tallarínes that include shrimp, chicken, and lomo with Huancaína sauce. No Peruvian menu is complete without their version of fried rice dishes, chaufas, and these go for the same prices.
Other appetizer choices include crab and octopus wontons, choros a la Chalaca (mussels) and the traditional papa a la Huancaína. For those patrons who had themselves quite a night, Ceviche Street also has potent concoctions to bring you back to the world of the living and sobriety like the Levanta Muertos fish and lime soup and the Rolls-Royce of hangover cures, Leche de Tigre. There is a kids' menu offering chicken or fish strips, but you'd be doing your child a culinary disservice if you don't steer them in the direction of something from the regular menu; with a little guidance, anyone can become more global at an earlier age.
There are a few dessert options on the menu, but the best bet is a Riglos' creation that will convince even the staunchest of anti-sweet gourmands: the lúcuma, a fruit native to Peru and Chile that is now grown in Vietnam, ice cream atop an alfajor cookie, topped with cream, flambé walnuts in Pizco, ají panca marmalade and a sweet brittle sail with touches of fruit and chocolate sauces Jackson Pollocking the plate is nothing short of phenomenal. With a 5 percent fat ice cream made by Riglos, the sweetness of the combination gets a solid punch of heat from his spicy marmalade, fusing a fine example of how this type of cuisine continues to evolve and deepen in richness.
There is a humble assortment of beers, sodas, and wine by the glass as well as live music on certain nights, with the chef, also a trained bass player, sometimes joining the dining room to play a few bars on the piano. The Riglos have taken great pride in their restaurant and are looking to spruce up the look and are considering working with artists to create a mural on the exterior to give that "Wynwood Walls" feel to their unassuming corner. Hopefully such musings will not detract the chef from his clear command of the kitchen and the deep but familial complexities of Peruvian cuisine.
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